People in Berlin’s government district are currently saying a farewell – a slow, quiet farewell, with no statements, no press release, a farewell that can no longer be stopped. And it will have consequences for the months to come, maybe even years. It is a farewell to an illusion.
Last Monday, for example, German Health Minister Jens Spahn of the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), held a small online meeting of experts – politicians, doctors and other officials. It centered on the autumn, the next steps in the fight against the pandemic, the question of vaccine booster shots. And about the goal politicians have been pursuing since the start of the year: herd immunity.
In other words, about the goal of immunizing so many people against the virus that it loses almost any capacity to threaten us. It would be the end of the pandemic, a triumph over COVID-19. That was the plan, the hope. The illusion.
Representatives from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s center for disease control, spoke up in the meeting: To reach herd immunity, they said, 85 percent of those aged 12 to 59 would need to be vaccinated, as well as 90 percent of all those above the age of 60. They argued that this would be possible by September. This was the official line that the RKI has been pushing for months – but there has been increasing pushback recently, including on Monday.